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Exclusive interview

Sustainability without trade-offs is the goal for P&G – Part 2

By Katie Bird , 31-Aug-2010
Last updated on 08-Sep-2010 at 13:23 GMT

Sustainability without trade-offs is the goal for P&G – Part 2

Sustainability is undoubtedly today’s business buzzword and consumer facing industries such as the cosmetics and personal care sector are particularly implicated. But, what changes should cosmetics players make to their manufacturing and formulations, and how can these be made without compromising product efficacy and price?

In the second part of this exclusive interview, Jenny Rushmore, global sustainability leader for P&G beauty and grooming, explains how the company is cutting down manufacturing emissions and waste, in an attempt to make operations more sustainable, while ensuring consumers are not forced to accept trade-offs.

Reductions in water, energy, carbon dioxide and waste

Rushmore explained that P&G has made manufacturing emissions and energy use the subject of some quite hefty reduction goals, with an objective of reducing carbon dioxide, energy, water and waste by 20 percent between 2007 and 2012. According to Rushmore, this will be a cumulative reduction of 50 percent between 2002 and 2012, per product produced.

Of course, reducing emissions and energy use is also in the interests of the company’s bottom line. “One of the great things about operations is that they want to reduce energy costs, as it is cheaper, and energy use is closely linked to carbon dioxide emissions,” she said.

Waste reduction is being tackled by the company’s Global Asset Recovery Programme Team, which investigates how the waste from P&G factories can be used in other processes rather than just discarded, and Rushmore described a number of the company’s projects.

“When you have to wash out say a shampoo manufacturing facility, there are huge amounts of soapy water. Normally this would be thrown away but we have been selling it to car wash facilities. Another example is our fine fragrance plant in the UK where we are using the waste ethanol that results from the manufacturing process to heat the facilities.”

No trade offs

However, Rushmore explained that P&G works on the principle that sustainability must not represent trade offs for the consumer in terms of price or product performance, which can be challenging in particular when dealing with formulation alterations.

The first step is to identify which areas need to be addressed and the company uses the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool to do this.

“LCA looks at the life cycle of a product from sourcing, through manufacturing, transportation and disposal. It looks at all the different impacts including carbon dioxide…It’s a way of focusing on what is meaningful.”

Studying the LCA of each product can help inform formulators, as profiles of different products can be compared and technologies transferred.

“One of the obvious things is to replace non-renewables with renewables, and then there might be some individual formula ingredients which could be particularly energy intense and could be altered,” she said.

However, Rushmore did point out that formulation is one of the hardest areas to make changes without performance trade offs.

“A product usually contains all its ingredients because that is the way it has been found to perform the best. We can try to replace problematic ingredients but when you run a test, consumers are not happy with products if they don’t work as well.”

Low levels of consumer communication

‘Invisible’ changes such as improving operations, as well as other steps such as light weighting the packaging, are helping the company on the path to more sustainable business practices, but they haven’t been forming the basis of consumer communication for P&G.

“P&G has been making improvements for a long time that we haven’t really been talking about, you don’t see us screaming from the rooftops about this, but we are starting to communicate,” Rushmore said.

“We are currently looking at how to prioritize this communication,” she added.

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